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Consolatory Rhetoric
Grief, Symbol, and Ritual in the Greco-Roman Era

Donovan J. Ochs


Consolatory Rhetoric explores Greco-Roman funeral rites to reveal how opposing symbols functioned rhetorically to comfort ancient communities. While the bulk of rhetorical criticism interprets written texts, Donovan Ochs broadens the traditional focus to consider non-verbal symbols as well as action and object languages. Ochs demonstrates that non-discursive dimensions of Greco-Roman burial rites held a place of particular persuasive significance in consoling the populace, and he attributes funeral customs practiced in contemporary Western civilization to the legacy of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Using descriptions of funeral rites found in classical literature, histories, archaeological evidence, classical art, art histories, rhetorical treatises, ind inscriptions, Ochs explains how symbols were timed, sequenced, and grouped to enable survivors to work through their grief. He finds symbols of befouling and marring juxtaposed with beautifying and adorning actions, movement paired with repose, sound coupled with silence, and lamentation linked with celebration. Ochs proposes that their characteristic ambiguity invites participation, interpretation, and solace.

Donovan J. Ochs is professor of rhetoric and communication studies at the University of Iowa. He is co-author of A Brief Introduction to Speech and The Rhetoric of Agitation and Control as well as co-editor of Explorations in Rhetoric: Studies in Honor of Douglas Ehninger.

"Strikes new ground, using long-known materials effectively to describe the rhetorical effects of consolatory ritual."—James J. Murphy, University of California-Davis.

"Historians of rhetoric have called for scholarship on this subject for years and now Donovan Ochs, one of our foremost experts, has given us some of his best work in response."—Richard Leo enos, Carnegie Mellon University.



book jacket for Consolatory Rhetoric


6 x 9
130 pages
4 illustrations
ISBN 978-0-87249-885-3
cloth, $34.95s

Studies in Rhetoric/Communication

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